or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Horning In

I'm sitting here listening to the Metropolitan Opera broadcast (Hansel and Gretel, in English, and it works better than most opera in translation, because the original is in German and the rhythms are somewhat similar), which puts me in mind of something I meant to write about a few days ago, some time after I had gone to see the HD broadcast of another Met opera, Les Contes D'Hoffmann, on December 19th.

I enjoyed the show well enough, but wasn't thrilled with the voice of the tenor, Joseph Calleja, who had a sort of flutter in addition to the usual vibrato in all his held notes. I mentioned this in the comments on an opera blog, Parterre Box, and someone informed me that that flutter was usually called "caprino". I had run across that term previously on that blog (possibly in relation to the same tenor, because people would have been talking about him before the premiere of the opera) and hadn't known what it meant. A cursory Google search didn't help; it mostly led to a Wiki page about a kind of cheese.

The word was, as expected, hovering around in the back of my brain, and then one day at work this past week it finally hit me: "caprino" must be somehow related to "Capricorn". It makes perfect sense: Capricorn is a goat, and so "capri-" plus "-corn", which means "horn", must mean something like "horned goat". "Caprino", therefore, is "capri-" plus some sort of Italian suffix, and must obviously refer to what someone thinks of as the goat-like bleating quality of the fluttery tenor vibrato: now that I know about this, I can't help but think of it as goatish. It may be the sort of thing one just needs to get used to (as is vibrato itself, and, in fact, a lot of the operatic style of singing), but it was new to me--I've never heard a tenor make a sound like that--and I didn't like it.


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